Pentecost, our final day in the Atrium this year, is the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit and consider His great gifts. As each red candle is lit from the Paschal Candle, adults and 3 to 6 year old children ponder Understanding, Piety, Fortitude, Knowledge, Fear of the Lord, Wisdom and Counsel. It is a privilege to define these in the most essential way and watch how the children receive them, their Source. We consider for whom the gifts are given and why.
One place you may not know these gifts are found is in the Journal of The National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Each December the Annual issue arrives in members’ mail; I’m finally reading mine in the long June light. Each article is densely packed with experiences of adults who’ve chosen to work with children and find there a path to their own formation. To read the Annual issue is to swim in a refreshing stream. Often the content is simply too good not to share, and in the spirit of Pentecost, I share the gift of an article written by one of the co-founders of this approach, the late Gianna Gobbi. Her article is sandwiched between one by the other co-founder, the late Sofia Cavalletti, “Still Searching Among Memories: Mystagogy with Children,” and one by Father Dalmazio Mongillo, “The Vocation to Become Human.” Deep theology is needed by anyone who works with children.
In “Assisting the Religious Experience of the Child,” Gianna writes about the “delicate task of [the childrens’] religious education.” She describes their need for silence, given the noise of our culture; the child’s joy in prayer and how to create conditions for their prayer to grow content and form; and the necessity for adults to observe the child while we guide, but do not interfere, with his or her growing relationship with God.
But most of all, I dare to share Gianna’s view that even though we are in the 21st century, our churches still have not “brought forward the different point of view of the child.”¹
She says”…we don’t notice the special way children have of living their relationship with God, and so we don’t learn from this precious observation.” And she expands upon her view, foundational to this approach, that adults and children need each other. How could this be true, and what is the value for the adult in closely observing the child and walking with him or her toward God?
It is simply this: the child reminds us that God is very busy at work in the small. He has hidden the great things in the little and the simple. With the child, we are reminded that nothing belongs to us; all belongs to God. We learn respect and humility as we stand before the deep, driving religious nature of a child who longs for us to show them the essential truths of the faith and then let them run toward the Shepherd on their own legs. Children lead us on the path to the Kingdom, whether we know it or not.
During these restful summer months, I ask for your prayers that God will make plain which part of the great need may be met with our very small 5 loaves and 2 fish. My prayer in turn is that each reader here will decide whether the Holy Spirit has convinced him or her to look again at the children, their joy, and our responsibility to serve them.
1 Gobbi, Gianna. “Assisting the Religious Experience of the Child,” 2011 Journal of the National Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, no. 26. Oak Park, IL: 2011.